Saturday, 25 November 2017

Historian seeks roll of honour from Great War

A ROLL of honour celebrating 53 Henley post office staff who served in the First World War is being sought.

Mike Willoughby, who runs the Lest We Forget memorial project, learned of the memorial’s existence after reading about it in an old edition of the Henley Standard.

He has found no further clues as to where it might be now but hopes it may be in a private collection somewhere.

The roll was unveiled at the old Henley sorting office on the corner of Reading Road and Friday Street, which is now Lloyds Bank, on January 22, 1919.

It named the men and women who either fought on the front line or served in support roles, four of whom were killed in action.

It was designed and created by Miss M J Isaac, a teacher at the Henley School of Art, and was in the shape of a column with a semi-circle on top bearing the words “Roll of Honour.”

The framed memorial was decorated with the Henley coat of arms and the Union Jack as well as drawings of Henley Bridge and the Henley obelisk, which at the time stood at the junction of Marlow Road and Northfield End.

It was inscribed with the words “Post Office, Henley-on-Thames” and the dates of the start and end of the war.

Staff at the sorting office, which moved to Reading Road many decades ago, have searched the basement for it but found nothing.

Mr Willoughby, from Woodcote, contacted the Post Office Museum in Bristol but it had no record of the item.

He said: “It’s one of many things I noted while I was carrying out my research. I’ve read every back copy of the Standard from that period and the roll is something I still haven’t traced.

“Part of me fears it may have been thrown away, as so many were in the Sixties, but I’d hope someone may have had a conscience and rescued it from the skip.

“I’ve had to give up looking for a similar one that used to be displayed in the Salisbury Club in Queen Street. They were very helpful but we concluded it must have been destroyed by a fire many years ago.

“I think it’s fitting to remember everybody who served, not just those who died. Many struggled to reintegrate with society once they returned, particularly if they were injured in battle.

“If someone thought those 53 people were worth celebrating at the time, there’s no reason that shouldn’t still be the case.”

If the roll does not turn up, Mr Willoughby will invite The Henley College’s art department to recreate it.

Since its launch in 2013, Lest We Forget has erected several plaques honouring hundreds of previously forgotten servicemen who died during the conflict.

It has also rededicated the unmarked graves of fallen Henley soldiers and campaigned for the town’s new hospital to be renamed Townlands Memorial Hospital.

If you can help, call Mr Willoughby on (01491) 680828.

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